Let’s do a quick poll. Raise your hand if you ever wanted to be like Dan O’Callahan. Anyone else? No? Okay, you may not know that Dan O’ was the hard drinking, freeskiing guru in Hot Dog…The Movie (circa 1983). He wore a blue jumpsuit and New York Mets hat, and he changed my life and the life of so many other young, impressionable skiers during that decade of decadence. If you’re not familiar with Hot Dog…The Movie, the tagline from the trailer pretty much sums it up: “By day, they’re the finest hot dogging, freestyle skiers in the world. By night, they really take chances.”
Imagine 1.5 hours of gratuitous nudity, binge drinking, and state of the art (for the ‘80s) ski scenes. Oh, and ‘80s super-hottie Shannon Tweed was in it. You can see why I’d be so smitten.
I don’t know what was more inspiring to me, the rad skiing or the hot tub scenes. Okay, that’s a lie, the hot tub scenes were what really got me motivated to be as much of a ski bum as I could possibly be while growing up in Georgia. Yes, the ballet ski scenes were enlightening, but I was more impressed with the skier lifestyle. Specifically, the notion of doing shots at a dive bar where the men wear fur coats and the women don’t wear much at all. First tracks and powder shots are great, but the off chance that you’ll meet Shannon Tweed in a hot tub is why you ski.
My buddies and I watched Hot Dog during every ski trip, whether we were traveling to the Rockies or hitting North Carolina for a weekend. It was our inspiration, our self-help guide through the slopes and après ski shenanigans.
Picture half a dozen dudes from Georgia tailgating at the base of Breckenridge, blaring David Allan Coe and piling Budweisers up in the snow at an alarming rate. I never skied without a flask of whiskey. One year, I even mixed martinis on the lift. With vermouth. And olives.
We ate nothing but Apple Jacks and pizza, skied eight hours straight, then proceeded to trash the condo while blaring the entire Beastie Boys catalogue. We slept eight to a room, rarely showered (there was always a keg in the tub, anyway), and never napped. The final run of each day followed strict Chinese Downhill Rules (google it).
Our latest ski trip was a bit different. First, the number of participants has slimmed quite a bit in recent years. For many of the original crew, four days of powder has been pushed down the priority list by mortgage payments and children’s classes.
So, only a hardy few adhere to the ski trip ritual, which looks nothing like the original four days of powder and debauchery. Instead of finding the cheapest room for the latest trip, one of our wives wouldn’t rest until she found a condo with hardwood floors. So she could do yoga every morning. Yoga. I’d like to single her out as lame, but the fact is, I joined her for yoga routinely. It’s the only way I could get my hip moving properly.
Back in the day, there was nothing quite like the potential of foreplay in the hot tub, but now I have to avoid that sort of concentrated heat altogether because it puts me right to sleep.
Instead of a keg of Keystone Light, the fridge was stocked with craft beer and wine—most of which we left for the housekeeper when we checked out. After skiing all day, we managed two beers before falling asleep on the couch
Instead of pizza, we hunted for sushi. Or Thai. Or something with a farm-to-fork philosophy behind it. Something I never said to a waiter during a ski trip when I was younger: “Is that chicken locally raised?”
It was a rare night that any of us made it past 10pm.
I’m not exactly sure when the ski trip shifted from winter frat party to relaxing yoga retreat. I guess it just evolved slowly, like some ancient slug-beast making its way out of the primordial ooze. But here’s the most shocking aspect of this evolution: I like our ski trips so much more now. Yes, I miss tailgating and every once in a while when I’m on the lift, I crave a martini, but it turns out, I’m a much better skier when I’m sober. Skiing trees when your blood alcohol level is .08 percent is basically Russian roulette with a $75 lift ticket. I’m amazed I survived through so many years of stupidity. Chalk it up to pure luck. Now I ski trees and steeps with clarity. I’m well nourished, well-rested, and thinking relatively swiftly. So while most athletes see their skill level wane as they get older, I’m hitting my prime, mostly because my reaction time and sense of balance aren’t hindered by morning beer bong hits.
Getting older never felt so good. •